Rich cultural heritage of handicrafts
The Ribnica Valley, nestled between Mala and Velika gora, boasts a rich heritage of handicrafts. Traditional handicraft knowledge and skills have been passed down from parents to children over many generations. Centuries-old tradition and handicrafts that are still very much alive – at a time when mass production is at its peak no less – are a source of pride for Ribnica, and also call for respect for all things handcrafted and for a reflection on sustainable consumption.
The term ‘woodenware’ was first mentioned more than half a century ago, however, the year that was particularly important when it comes to shaping Ribnica’s development and renown was 1492. This particular year saw the start of the production of Ribnica Valley’s woodenware. Due to the constant Ottoman incursions, poor harvests and the pressure from the guilds, Emperor Frederick granted this area a special peddler’s patent, allowing the local people free trade in livestock, linen and handcrafted wood products throughout the former Austrian Empire.
At first, the local people made wooden objects for their own personal use, however, due to their knack for selling things and ingenuity it did not take long for them to start selling their ware to other people. Thus, they become peddlers and artisans, selling and repairing all kinds of wooden products.
»Jest dejlam škafe in rešjeta,
rajte, brjente, vsega šjenta,
sem majster jest od žlic,
čebru, keblu, keblic.
Vre, vre, vre,
mi smo Ribnčanje!«
The Ribnica Fair
The Municipality of Ribnica, which has approximately 10,000 inhabitants, is best-known for its centuries-old woodenware and pottery tradition.
The local handicrafts date back to the 15th century, when a series of poor harvests, constant pressure from the Ottomans, peasant revolts and the like forced the then Austrian Emperor Frederick III to issue the so-called Peddler's Patent. This special privilege allowed people from the Ribnica-Kočevje area to trade in local products without paying taxes. Thus, woodenware handcrafted by the people from the Ribnica Valley started to be sold in different parts of the empire. In local parlance woodenware products are called ‘suha roba’, i.e. ‘dry goods’.
In Ribnica, one of Slovenia's most famous fairs is dedicated to this tradition: the Ribnica Woodenware and Pottery Fair, which is considered a veritable local holiday.
Traditional activities in Ribnica
Because of the abundance of wood and clay, the strongest industries in Ribnica Valley are woodenware making and pottery.
Pottery developed in places that boasted an abundance of clay. Locally, this part of the Ribnica Valley is called ‘Lončarija’, roughly translated as ‘the Land of Pottery’. Pottery was a craft that people practiced in bad weather, on long winter days or whenever they had a rare free moment to spare.
Children learned pottery from their respective fathers. At first, they helped out cleaning the clay by trampling it with their feet. They then moved on to making some less complex products and toys, before gradually switching to pots and more challenging pottery items.
When 800 to 1,200 pieces of pottery were finished, it was time to start the pottery kiln in the communal pottery-firing area (called ‘ožaga’ in local parlance). The first firing took from 18 to 20 hours, and the second firing 15 hours.
The main feature of clay products is their great functionality. Clayware was used for preparing and serving food, and clay cups and jugs were used for serving drinks. There were also all sorts of clay items used for fun and playing, such as clay toys and various animal-shaped whistles (lions, fish, horses, horses with a rider, cuckoos, bears, dogs, chickens and the like).
Due to poor living conditions, the need for additional income and an abundance of wood, the woodware craft expanded rapidly. Traditional woodenware-making knowledge and skills were passed down from generation to generation and often all generations living under the same roof were involved in the craft. Woodenware making has left an indelible imprint on Ribnica Valley’s development and prominence.
Have you ever seen or bought a wooden cooking spoon from a woodenware maker from Ribnica?
Woodenware making is divided into the following nine activities:
Pack-peddling, Wickerwork craft, Vessel making, Spoon making, Rim making, Sieve making, Bottom making, Carpentry, Woodturning and Tool making.
The people of Ribnica are well-known for their waggishness, good humour and wit. Woodenware makers have always been very good at convincing potential customers to buy their ware. They have, however, also always excelled at adapting their goods to the customers’ wants and needs, to the demand for new products and latest trends.
JANEZ BOJC, S. P.;
Za vodo 3
1331 Dolenja vas
T: +386 (0)41 384 102
ČEŠAREK JANEZ POGORELEC s.p.
Lončarska ulica 22
1331 Dolenja vas
T: +386 (0)40 690 517
Prigorica 101 A
1331 Dolenja vas
T: +386 (0)41 362 647
1331 Dolenja vas
T: +386 (0)51 332 667
LOVŠIN ANDREJ, S. P.
T: +386 (0)1 836 03 54
JAKLIČ FRANC, S. P.
T: +386 (0)41 916 706
OBRTI IZ LESA
JOŽE TEKAVEC, S. P.
T: +386 (0)41 376 957
Have you ever made a whistle from hazel wood or watched someone weave beautiful wickerwork? Would you like to try your hand at it? Come and join us! Our local artisans will be happy to tell you all about the natural materials and teach you the basics of wickerwork craft and pottery. You can never have too much knowledge and even for those of you who are already quite skilled at these crafts an opportunity to exchange views and experience is a strong motivation to join in as well. Every year, the Ribnica Handicraft Centre organises all sorts of interesting courses and workshops for young and old alike.
For more information about handicrafts, workshops and courses, visit the Ribnica Handicraft Centre’s website:
Wickerwork and Pottery school
Would you like to serve your guests with aromatic coffee in cups you’ve made yourself and carry your things around in a handcrafted basket? If yes, why don’t you join our wickerwork or pottery school?
Mentors at our basketry and wickerwork school will shows you the ropes, and make sure you learn about making different items from willow and hazel branches in an interesting way. They will guide you through the entire process, from getting to know the material, processing, weaving, and the final product.
Pottery school participants will first learn about shaping clay using a potter’s wheel, specifically how to centre the clay properly, and then learn how to make traditional handcrafted products.